Words at Play

7 Words in the Wind

Listen closely and you can hear them rustling


wind-words-sirocco

A sirocco is a hot desert wind that blows northward from the Sahara toward the Mediterranean coast of Europe. More broadly, it is used for any kind of hot, oppressive wind.

She had begun by saying that it was coming over her, after all, that Rome was a ponderously sad place.

The sirocco was gently blowing, the air was heavy, she was tired, she looked a little pale.
— Henry James, Roderick Hudson, 1875

wind-words-aeolian

Related to Aeolus, the Greek keeper of the wind and king of the island of Aeolia (as described in the works of Homer), Aeolian means “giving forth or marked by a moaning or sighing sound or musical tone produced by or as if by the wind” or “borne, deposited, produced, or eroded by the wind.”

Then it occurred to me … that it would be a fine thing to climb one of the trees to obtain a wider outlook and get my ear close to the Aeolian music of its topmost branches.
— John Muir, 1874, quoted in Donald Worster, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, 2008

wind-words-gale

Gale refers to a current of air that measures in the range of 32 to 63 miles per hour on the Beaufort scale.

More generally, it’s any strong wind:

On this links-style course, autumn gales blow fiercely across the moors - so fiercely that a misstruck shot can turn on you like a rogue boomerang.
— Joseph P. Kahn, The Boston Globe, 11 Nov. 2001

wind-words-zephyr

Zephyr honors another god of the wind: Zephyrus, Greek god of the west wind, and can now refer to any light breeze.

It was a calm and beautiful day, with only a slight zephyr to ripple the surface of the water, and rustle the woods on shore, and just warmth enough to prove the kindly disposition of Nature to her children.
— Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849

Use of zephyr in English might have received a light push from William Shakespeare, who used it in his 1611 play Cymbeline:

"Thou divine Nature, thou thyself thou blazon'st / In these two princely boys! They are as gentle / As zephyrs blowing below the violet."

wind-words-squall

Squall describes a sudden violent wind often accompanied by rain or snow.

In New Jersey, officials worried that the squall could take a chunk out of beaches just south of Atlantic City that are still being repaired because of damage from previous storms. Winds were expected to increase drastically throughout the day, peaking Friday afternoon with gusts from 50 mph to 60 mph.
— Liz Bowie & Talia Richman, The Baltimore Sun, 2 Mar. 2018

The word is, like squabble, believed to be of Scandinavian origin, and perhaps fittingly can also refer to a short-lived commotion or a raucous cry.

wind-words-wuther

Wuther is a verb from English dialect that doesn’t see much use today. Meaning “to blow with a dull roaring sound,” it’s encountered almost exclusively in the title of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights.

wind-words-haboob

Deriving from Arabic, haboob refers to a violent dust storm or sandstorm. The word originally applied to such storms in Sudan, but has since expanded to cover similar storms in other desert regions.

Winds gusted to 80 miles per hour in the town of Florence, Ariz., and topped 70 in the city of Phoenix. The Copper State is no stranger to haboobs but even by Arizona standards, this one was a biggie.
— Matthew Cappucci, Washington Post, 10 July 2018




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